Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tried, True and Terrific

photo by Barney Taxel, Taxel Image Group

The husband and I had a date to have dinner with a friend last Saturday night. We decided to eat at Bistro 185 in the up-and-coming Collinwood area. We’ve been regulars since it opened in 2006 and, like many of their customers, have a friendly relationship with owners Marc and Ruth Levine. We love talking curing and smoking with Marc, and I appreciate his savvy (and recommendations) when it comes to wine and beer. Ruth is a culinary powerhouse and someone I admire. She's knowledgeable, skilled and imaginative when it comes to cooking but without ego or pretension, (always giving credit to her crack kitchen team, especially chef Todd Mueller), and she seems to possess  the energy and endurance of  two.

This small restaurant is among the select group of places we choose to go when I’m not on the job. We were talking about this recently, dissecting what we like about it. First there's the look and feel: tavern casual, cozy, and unpretentious with some charming retro touches in the decor like roomy wooden booths with game boards integrated into the table tops. The service is friendly, the prices affordable. The bar is well stocked with interesting stuff. Though some dishes show up often because they're popular, the menu changes daily so it never gets boring. And there are always ample choices: meat, poultry, fish, vegetarian — options from light to hearty. Ruth's not wedded to a single theme, a concept more defined by quality and deliciousness than style. Comfort food, Asian flavors, classic sauces, American contemporary, French technique — any of it might show up on a given night.

photo by Barney Taxel, Taxel Image Group

But most of all, the husband and I agreed that we’d never, not ever, had a bad meal there. Sure, we’ve liked some dishes more than others, however neither of us have ever felt the need to send back a plate or complain. The dishes coming out of this kitchen are consistently well executed and invariably tasty. The leftovers, — and there are usually take home bags, both because the portions are sizable and we can't resist her appetizers and salads — are never tossed and always a source of enjoyment. We keep coming here, and bring family, friends and out-of-towners because we can depend on having a fine night out. And Saturday was no exception. The entree selection included steak oscar, veal scaloppini, chicken schnitzel, boeuf bourguignon, panko-and-almond crusted cod, lobster ravioli, 1/2 a duck roasted in orange ginger sauce ...

We had a luscious bacon and goat cheese flatbread featuring spinach, mounds of caramelized onions, Parmesan and balsamic glaze. The warm wild mushroom salad with field greens and raspberry vinaigrette was excellent as usual. The husband went with Coquille St. Jacques (a starter big enough for a main), a bubbling crock of scallops and shrimp in an alfredo cream with parmesan crust. Our friend chose the house-cured gravlax on potato pancakes, one of our favorites. The high point of my evening was the Mediterranean seafood nicoise, a truly outstanding bouillabaisse. The bronzini tomato broth was thick with shrimp, mussels, salmon, cod, and cobia; three kinds of olives; fennel, leeks, onions, capers and chunks of carrot; and white and purple fingerling potatoes. Crunchy slices of toasted baguette slathered with garlic aioli were great for dipping.

Smoked and Grilled Tofu
Glazed with a Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Bar-B-Que Sauce
Grilled Corn and Edamame Succotash
Roasted Sweet Potato
Jalapeno Corn Bread

If I have not yet succeeded in motivating you to visit the restaurant, then let me add another incentive. There are monthly dinners for wine aficionados and vegans (or anyone who wants to explore this approach). The next  wine dinner dubbed "Off the Beaten Path" happens May 22.  A three-course, prix-fixe Vegan Tex Mex  is scheduled for May 23. Reservations are required for both.


Monsita1910 said...

We could not agree more with Laura. Bistro 185 is our favorite restaurant in Cleveland because it is consistently outstanding in all respects: food, service, wine selection and Ruth and Marc are two of the nicest people you can ever meet. More than worth a trip from any part of Cleveland. This is a true destination restaurant.

Unity Design said...

Ditto! What a terrific summary and way to define the "je ne sais quoi" of Bistro 185's success. Truly one of Cleveland's best for all of these reasons.